Much of what this culture calls power is actually force. We call it 'being powerful' when we dominate over another, or steamroll over their autonomy. Or even when we have an agenda for another person, a desire for something they should do. We do it a disservice when we call it power, because this is actually using force over another.
Force is the opposite of power. Force is based on a superior/inferior dynamic, and it indicates that we don't know our place in life. When we use force over another, we are acting like a predator.
True power is internal power, a sense of internal peace with all of life. Interconnected with everything, yet also whole. A sense of personal dignity, and allowing the same for all. It speaks truth, and hears truth. It listens and allows all. Honoring. All. It is based in the inherent equality of all beings.
True power is a prayer with life.
The healing comes from returning, over and over, from being a predator to being a prayer.
Today is the first time I have introduced my peace-power path healing process to my boys. While I have talked about it with them, I hadn't actually walked them through it before. It was so very lovely.
We went to get ice cream, and my younger son was acting ornery. He was engaging physically with his older brother, for no apparent reason. This is out of character, so I asked him what was going on, if there was any reason for the engagement, or if it was possibly the sugar buzzing in his body. He thought it was the sugar, but the tangling started when they were in line, so we concluded that it was not entirely that.
He has some oppositional defiance tendencies as well as a touch of ADHD. He also has a very playful personality. Through energy work I have come to see that ADHD has an ancestral energetic component of not feeling seen by a parent, so I wanted to engage with him at close range, respectfully, and curiously.
It turns out that his brother had elbowed him in line. This was the first move, and it bothered Ryan enough to mention it. He always remembers a transgression, and frequently feels the need to extract payback multiple times over.
That was a good place to start. Jackson apologized for doing it, but Ryan was still wiggling and disengaged. I asked him if he was feeling a bit of defiance or if he felt he was buzzing from the sugar. He thought it was sugar, but could be the other. Then, I launched into the healing process:
1. Your true state is peaceful. Are you feeling peaceful on the inside right now? "No."
2. Sometimes other emotions cover over our peace, and it's like we can't access our peace. It's like they are a barrier inside us to connecting with our peace. Do you know what I mean? "Yes."
3. Those barriers are not our true nature. We acquired them. We acquired some through our ancestors, some through life experiences, some from our family dynamics, and some from our culture. But, because they are not our true nature, we can give them back.
4. Repeat after me: "Please help me. Please help me. Ancestors, please bless me and help me in releasing this energy pattern."
5. "When I carry this energy pattern, I am not able to carry that which is mine to carry."
6. "I release this energy pattern now, back to the highest original source."
7. "I release and return this energy pattern back to the highest original source."
8. "Thank you, to the highest original source, to the fates and paths that I will never know."
9. "When I return this energy pattern back to the highest original source, it restores greater integrity (wholeness) to the highest original source, and it restores greater integrity (wholeness) within me."
10. "Thank you"
That's it. And, when I asked him how he felt afterwards he said he felt more peaceful. Sigh. I looked him deeply in the eyes and told him I saw him. He body was still a bit fidgety, but he felt much calmer, so I asked him about his fidgeting - if it came from defiance or from feeling playful. He said it was playful.
We smiled deeply into each others eyes, peace restored to both of us.
This is Stella, which (of course) means 'star,' because that's what she's made of (as we all are). She is my ancestor, which I know because today she told me so. She called me over to her in a rainstorm, and then poured her healing into me. Our energies connected, and as I flattened my back into her trunk I will filled with the sweetest of love. She healed me, and all I wanted was to rest in her embrace for days.
I eventually tore myself away, and continued along my path. On the rest of the walk I was pulled into other copses, or off the trail in other directions, and every time it was to retrieve an unseen piece of trash. Uncanny, to find so much trash off the trail in the direction I was being pulled.
But the real take away is that we are healing each other, the woods and I.
(To remember Stella I removed a tiny branch from her trunk and brought it home with me. As I told my son this story, he said, "Did you ask her first?" OY. The wisdom of kids. I hadn't. Next time I will.
The part of the brain that feels feelings is different than the part of the brain that uses words. In fact, the two different parts of the brain don’t even talk to each other. Which means, when we feel painful feelings of any type, this part of the brain cannot communicate to the other part why we feel the feelings. All it can do is feel the feelings. Our other part of the brain then leaps into action and tries to “figure it out,” so it can “solve it.” Except it has no access to the actual feelings. It’s a bystander. We are using 2 different parts of our brain that don’t talk to each other. Both are islands, doing their respective work, completely independent of each other.
Which makes figuring out why we feel bad almost impossible.
And yet, analyzing why I feel bad is a most favored diversion (MFD) of mine, a favorite past time. And, it is a habit that prevents me from actually facing the pain and healing it. Wasted time. A distraction, diversion, and disassociation. A hamster wheel.
One of the most empowering lessons of the past 2 years in the woods is the idea that I don’t ever need to know why I feel bad, I only need to recognize when I do feel bad, and give the painful energy pattern back to the highest original source.
I never need to know why, I only need to heal it. Give it back. Done.
Any effort to figure out “why” can never be accurate any way - the words are separated from the feelings. I am only guessing, or applying former thinking or experiences to the situation.
Another favorite past time is to project my feelings. Sometimes I find myself wanting to “make my kids happy.” This desire takes over, and I find myself obsessing over their happiness. This is also a habitual deflection that prevents me from seeing that I really want to “make me happy.”
Anything I want to see on the outside I am really, truly, calling my attention to to give it to myself.
And, fortunately for me, the solution is the same for all of the painful, fearful, habituated thinking: just give the painful energetic pattern back to the highest original source.
Problem solved. It really is that easy.
Our rural Ethiopian indigenous local NGO construction partners built hundreds of clean water points, schools, health facilities and farm/business programs every year. Based on their location, the capabilities of the partners varied widely across the country - some partners had fleets of trucks and drill rigs, computers, and permanent staff. Other partners had none of those things. This created challenges for us as we implemented standards of quality in our implementation model, sustainable development practices, and consistent construction quality requirements.
International development is nominally about constructing a school, a water point, a health facility. These deliverables are required, of course, but at a deeper level, sustainable development is about changing behavior in relationship the deliverable. For example, a clean water project means very little to the long-term health of a community if the community does not maintain the water point for longevity, or wash their hands before eating or after defecation. To not make these behavior changes mean that people will not reap the benefits of the project, and it will be largely useless.
Anyone that has ever tried to lose 10 pounds knows how hard it is to change their own behavior - much less to ask a community to change doing something from the way their parents did it, how their grandparents did it, etc. Changing behavior is key to sustainable development and optimal growth, and it is hard. Finding and applying motivation is key to long term change.
In our model, the roots of behavior change took place one year before the first shovel of dirt was ever lifted. The first year was spent having conversations with our partners, the government and the community about where to build, what to build, how to build it, respective contributions, responsibilities, training, etc. This upfront year was crucial because it showed us which community leaders, community members, partners and government representatives had the motivation to go where we were going, to co-invest in sustainability and quality alongside us - and not just do the “easy” work of construction. Which stakeholders had the motivation we were looking for.
Our construction partners were doing the day-to-day work with the communities, and had the front line of responsibility for these activities. Our Country Director, Gebrehiwot Abebe, had a wise philosophy about our partners’ respective capabilities in this regard: We would work with any partner that was motivated to work with us. This did not mean that they had the innate capability or sophistication to work at our level, but it meant that when we gave them feedback they listened, took it to heart, wanted to change, and made changes. They were motivated.
Our standards of inclusion, co-investment, and training raised the bar on even the most sophisticated of our partners, and all partners struggled to grow with us. That was fine, we had the flexibility to patiently allow the work to progress at an absorbable natural pace. A lack of capability wouldn’t be a dealbreaker for a partnership…but a lack of willingness to try would.
After a very reasonable amount of time and effort were spent working alongside the partners, giving feedback, discussing barriers, etc, we would walk away. Focus on working with those that were motivated to work with us. We walked away from a very large, significant partnership for this very reason, and maintained a very small, unsophisticated partnership for the same reason. (And, I’m proud to report that the large partnership undertook some significant internal restructuring, found its motivation, changed its ways, and ultimately re-joined us.)
This is an incredibly useful model that is applicable for life, as well - especially in personal development work. As we grow into our own personal power, embodying divine energy, we develop new standards of integrity, of quality, of sustainability, for ourselves. As we honor our truths it changes our relationships to life, to our families, to our jobs, to all of our partnerships. We implement new standards of quality and sustainability. And some of our partnerships are more capable than others in growing with us, and some are more motivated.
And that is all ok. What is not ok is not to try, not to change and grow and try to embody our truth more fully. Not to tell our partners what our standards are, and see how they respond, gauge their motivation, and walk away if necessary.
But, it’s a process, and it requires investment and transparency. None of the changes happened overnight, and our alignment revealed itself through thoughtful, engaged conversations over time. Some of the partners we thought would never make it became our star partnerships, and some of the partner we thought would find the changes to be easy could not find their motivation.
Perhaps one of the best outcomes of the experience was a shift in our own perception of quality. We grew to celebrate progress, not perfection. Changing behavior is hard, life happens, and we are constantly integrating new dynamics and variables. But the best we can do is have motivated partners that are willing to walk alongside us on the path, each bringing their own transparent selves, each in it together.
The bliss, the healing, the divine energy, is strong right here. Suffuses the cells, buckles the knees, takes the breath away.
Personal power is knowing, embodying, the divine energy within.
A friend was recently telling me about a painful pattern in her marriage, and used the statement, “It’s my fault, I enable him to…”. The statement struck me because of the use of the word ‘enable.’ To enable is to empower another, to give tools and resources in support of positive or constructive behavior. Growth.
It would be more accurate if she were to have said, “I disable him because....” because that is actually what is happening. When we participate in a pattern that maintains harmful or painful energy, it is *disabling* to all involved.
To say it enables gives an almost noble quality to our suffering, makes us a martyr. It minimizes the destructiveness that is actually occurring. When we don’t call things what they really are, we minimize, discount, disassociate, from what is actually happening. And, it enables *us* to not actually look at what we are doing to ourselves, to take complete responsibility for what we are doing to ourselves.
And, in this context it inflates one’s own sense of power in any given situation, as it relates to another’s agency. One feels a bit superior, that one can actually control or influence another’s behavior. We can’t, and this ignores the agency of the other person, who is going to do what they are going to do for all the reasons they are going to do it, with or without your support.
Here’s what’s even more true: It disables me when I participate in a painful energy pattern. I disable myself when I not address something a situation that feels painful. I am trading my peace for something, and I am unwilling to look at what that is. I prefer staying small to taking complete responsibility for seeing and using my agency in this situation.
We can’t change anything if we don’t see our role in it, if we feel powerless to the behavior of others.
Our power is found in calling things what what actually are, and taking responsibility for that which is ours in the situation.
Working in rural Ethiopia for nearly a decade has shown me the true meaning of agency. To me, agency means choice. All humans (fully formed humans not in bondage) have it, it is part of the human brain condition. Many of us forget it, though, because we don't like our choices. But what some of the most impoverished, remote, isolated people were able to achieve through the use of their agency - employing their motivation, vision, and hard work within the reality of their conditions - was astounding.
Somehow, it seems that in our culture, we have confused liking our choices with having choices.
There is an important distinction to be made between liking our choices and having choices. Just because we don't like our choices doesn't mean we don't have them. We always do.
The sooner we take complete responsibility for seeing the choices available to us, and consciously making a choice, the sooner we are restored to our internal power.
Boys, you have agency. Do you know what that means? It means choice.
When you walk Xoli, you have the choice to employ force or power. Do you know what the difference is?
Force is control and external domination, making her do what you want. Power is internal, the ability to respectfully engage with another creature, from the inside, to obtain the goals of the group. When you employ power you know your place in the group. You are the leader, who respectfully engages with Xoli to achieve the goals of the group.
The goal of the group, right now, is to have a peaceful training walk with Xoli.
What are your tools? You have the leash, you have your minds, you have treats, you have sticks, you have training exercises to engage her, you have the brilliance of the group collective experience. She has none of those things. She has no agency. Therefor, it is your job to use your agency to work with her, respectfully employing your tools, to achieve the goals of the group.
And, you always have this choice. Internal versus external. Intrinsic versus extrinsic. When you are using your power, you know your place in the group. You use all of your tools to achieve the goal of the group. You engage others respectfully with the goals in mind. It is not about you and your goals, it is about the goals of the group.
This is a practice. We practice this. We always have a choice, and we are always making that choice.
Here's a clue as to which one we are using: how does it feel inside the body? Using our power feels amazing. We're engaged and connected with others. This is the primary characteristic of power: we're engaged and connected respectfully with others. We're flowing, we're respectful, and we're feeling alive. Force, on the other hand, feels icky. We feel alone. We feel we are pushing someone/something. We actually feel powerless.
Or, when we are using our power, we feel like we are clearly communicating with another. We are engaged and having a conversation, even if it's not verbal. When we are using our force, we feel like nobody is listening. We are shouting to be heard, and feel invisible.
Ryan, I see you are not paying attention and you are distracting Xoli. Is that using your power or your force? It’s not using your power, because it’s disrespectful to me and to the group. You think your needs are more important than those of the group. Please rejoin the group.
OK, off you go!